Many of us in the corporate world have at one time or another struggled to justify marketing expenditures to the powers-that-be. If I had a dime for every time I fought with a CFO over why we needed to pay for certain marketing activities (“No, I don’t know how to code HTML, thank you very much.”) I’d have enough money to have paid for those initiatives 10 times over.
And what happens when you are the CEO of your own company? How can you justify those expenses to yourself and still sleep at night?
CEO’s care about cash flow, sales growth and bottom line earnings growth. If you can track back your marketing efforts to any of those things, you wil score big.
You must first answer the question, “How does this work produce cash flow?” As a former marketing leader I worked for once said, “Marketing exists to help salespeople sell more easily.” So if you want markting to get the budget it deserves, you need to change the conversation with your CEO.
You must talk in terms of topline sales groth or bottom line earnings growth. You must care about ROI and have an infrastucture in place to measure it and track it back to specific markting efforts. You must say that your marketing activity will manage the lead pipeline, overcome price pressures, or help the sales funnel flow faster and reduce the time it takes to get from Lead to Sale.
So, where does this leave branding? The psychological, awareness activity? The activity that cannot be so easily tracked to the sales P.O. or the purchase decisions? We all know branding can work powerfully, but how do we prove it?
What I’ve always said is this: Branding and awareness activities in and of themselves do not drive sales. You can not just stop there and hope to move a person down the line towards the purchase decision. The buying process has 4 phases before getting to sale: Awareness, Consideration, Evaluation and Purchase. But…effective branding and awareness upfront will increase the ROI and effectiveness of your more “direct” marketing efforts later on. It provides air cover and context to all your direct marketing activity. If you try to do just the direct marketing efforts (a webcast invite, an email campaign, etc.) with no awareness or branding leading up to them, it’s like burning money.
Think about it this way: You as a businss need to earn the right to show up in someone’s email box. You need to earn the right to offer a special deal. You need to earn the right to get them to spend their precious time and money coming to your event. How can you do this if they don’t know who the heck you are? It’s like some sales guy showing up at your door during dinner. Who invited him?
You earn this right the old fashioned way: by introducing yourself to them and letting them know who you are, what you are about and what value you offer. That’s branding and awareness. That’s what advertising started out doing (before the Internet). No, you may not close the sale from just branding, but neither do you propose marriage on a first date You have to earn that right. If you “date” for a while, they will be much more receptive to your proposal than if you get down on one knee on the first blind date.
That is the function of branding. Creating an image, a story, fulfilling a need in the prospect’s eyes over time, so that when you want them to act (attend an event, trial a product, purchase) they will already know you, love you, and most importanly, trust you. And that is what makes the money spent on those direct marketing efforts a better investment, yielding better returns. Spending $50,000 to get $5,000 in sales is less impessive to a CEO than spending $250,000 on combined branding and direct marketing efforts and getting $2,500,000 in sales, don’t you think?